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Silvio Berlusconi: The Enduring Impact of a Flamboyant Political Figure in Europe

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Silvio Berlusconi impact on Europe.

Silvio Berlusconi, the flamboyant and controversial political figure who served as Italy’s prime minister on four occasions and played a pivotal role in the country’s current government coalition, remains a figure of both envy and disdain. Known as “Il Cavaliere” (The Knight), Berlusconi not only left an indelible mark on his homeland but also made a significant impact on European politics as a whole.

Silvio Berlusconi: The Enduring Impact of a Flamboyant Political Figure in Europe

As a student and later as a journalist, I closely followed Berlusconi’s political career, starting with his first election victory in 1994. His ascendancy marked a seismic shift in European politics, the repercussions of which continue to reverberate long after his state funeral on Wednesday.

At a time when the European project was deepening its roots in Brussels, Berlusconi’s rise to power as a business tycoon and former cruise ship crooner posed a stark contrast. He embraced a more nationalist and “Italy First” narrative, challenging the prevailing EU-centric approach. In fact, he once urged EU leaders at a summit to focus their discussions on topics like women and football, displaying his unorthodox style.

Silvio Berlusconi: The Enduring Impact of a Flamboyant Political Figure in Europe

Back home, Silvio Berlusconi formed a coalition government with the post-fascist far-right, a partnership previously considered taboo in post-war Italy. By doing so, he helped legitimize their presence in the political landscape. Unapologetically politically incorrect, he claimed to speak the language of “ordinary people” and leveraged his media empire to gain an advantage over his opponents. He also displayed open contempt for the judiciary, even attempting to change Italian law to shield himself from prosecution.

The echoes of Berlusconi’s political playbook can be heard in the rhetoric and strategies of numerous right-leaning politicians and movements across Europe. Figures such as Hungary’s Victor Orban, who publicly mourned Berlusconi’s passing, have adopted similar nationalist approaches. The influence extends beyond Europe’s borders, with parallels observable in former US President Donald Trump, whom Berlusconi admired. The Italian leader had a fondness for strongmen politicians like Vladimir Putin, with whom he shared a close friendship. Putin, upon learning of Berlusconi’s death, described him as a “dear person, a true friend.” This camaraderie with Moscow raised concerns among Italy’s traditional allies, particularly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine during Berlusconi’s time in the coalition government.

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Silvio Berlusconi image

While Silvio Berlusconi projected an image of optimism and resilience, even in the face of economic crises such as the 2008 downturn, he ultimately fell short in delivering substantial improvements or enacting transformative changes for Italy. However, his true legacy lies in the profound influence he exerted on a new generation of ambitious politicians across Europe, emboldening their populist and nationalist agendas.

Silvio Berlusconi impact on European politics cannot be underestimated. Though he stirred polarized opinions, his colorful personality and unorthodox methods left an enduring imprint on the continent’s political landscape. As his political journey comes to an end, his legacy continues to shape the trajectory of European politics, prompting reflection on the nature of power, populism, and nationalism in the modern era.

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